On the opening day of the Laver Cup at London’s O2 Arena, a protester entered the field and set his arm on fire during the match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman.
After Tsitsipas won the first set, the protester walked onto the field wearing a shirt that read “End UK Private Jets” in capital letters. After being in the service box, he poured a liquid on his right arm and then set his arm on fire with a lighter.
“It came out of nowhere. I have no idea what it’s all about. I’ve never seen an incident like this on the pitch, so I hope he’s okay,” said Tsitsipas, who beat Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1.
The protester eventually extinguished the fire by shaking his arm vigorously, but some of the liquid fell on the court and a small fire developed on the surface of the court, causing a guard to extinguish the flame with his jacket.
After being removed from the court, the protester was temporarily detained by guards in a hallway near the court entrance and appeared to have suffered no significant injuries. The protester is believed to represent Sacrifice for Survival, a climate emergency protest initiative in which activists previously set themselves on fire every day with the aim of halting flights between sites in the UK.Read:CeeDee Lamb Knew He “Had To Step Up” vs. Giants
The game was interrupted shortly after the protester’s departure, when the field was cleared and Tsitsipas spoke to the referee to ensure the field was in adequate shape before agreeing to resume.
“I wanted to continue with that game without minor changes to the pitch, and I wanted to make sure it’s playable, especially that area,” Tsitsipas said.
“It also got in the way of my viewing experience of the court, the way I saw the court later. There was a big mark there and I wanted it cleared up so I could proceed as I did before.
Protests are not uncommon at high profile tennis matches, including at this year’s Australian Open final between Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal, when protesters barged into the Rod Laver Arena carrying a banner reading ‘Abolish refugee detention’. At the French Open, an environmental protester attached himself to the net with wires and glue during the semifinal between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic.
The Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-inspired team competition pitting Team Europe against Team World, has featured numerous players arriving in the UK by private jet during its pre-event promotions, including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.